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How to Start and Finish Your Live Streams Right

For this article, we're going to concentrate on two often-overlooked portions of a live stream: the beginning and the ending.
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While readers and contributors to Streaming Media magazine are all about “the business & technology of online video,” and we often cover the technical side of the business and the business side of the technology, we don't often step back and consider aesthetics. A stream is only as successful as its appearance, whether it’s a healthy bitrate, crystal-clear resolution, or polished graphics.

Making a stream look good from a technical standpoint requires expensive equipment and services, but making it look good artistically is nearly free. However, it does require planning and some creative skills. For this article, we’re going to concentrate on two often-overlooked portions of a live stream: the beginning and the ending.

Before and During

When you plan out all of the technical aspects of your live production, take some time to think through what your audience will see before and after your stream. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Who is the audience? What graphics, b-roll, or music would appeal to them while they wait for the stream to begin?
  • How long is your stream? Will there be an intermission that could use something to maintain interest between sessions?
  • What is the content of the stream? Is there sensitive information that should be disclaimed at some point?

Now let’s tackle some of these with a hypothetical shoot. The production is an all-hands meeting at a large corporation. There will be three executives giving three separate presentations. The stream will be broadcast to desktops across all five of their international headquarters. The audience will be workers in the banking industry; their average age is 42. The total run time of the meeting is expected to be about 90 minutes with a 7-minute break between speakers to allow time for them to cue up each presentation. The presentations are confidential and contain sensitive “internal use only” information.

Sure, you won’t always have this much information for a shoot, but if you do, here’s how you can use it to your advantage to improve the quality of your production. Since the audience members are approximately 42, find some music from the 1980s and early 1990s (or a copyright-safe, royalty-free facsimile), right from the heart of their youth. Create a looping playlist that can be brought up for the audio stream before and after the broadcast and during the 7-minute breaks.

If the client has some commercials or other interesting videos that they’ve produced, consider looping them along with a lower-third saying
“Our broadcast will begin soon.” If you’re not using music, you can cut back to this video montage during the breaks also.

It’s also helpful to include a countdown timer (Figure 1, below). But keep in mind that no one likes a timer that isn’t accurate. If you expect the broadcast to begin late or early, it may be best to skip the timer and just replace it with a general note, such as, “Our broadcast will begin soon.”

Figure 1. An embeddable webcast countdown timer at tickcounter.com

To remind your viewers that they need to be discreet with the sensitive information in the video, consider adding a static, lower-third title reminding them that the information is not to be shared, and that they may not take any screenshots or screen captures.

If you have concerns over music licensing or don’t have any interesting video to use as a pre-roll, get some nice stills or a good establishing shot of the venue. Broadcasting an empty stage does not make for compelling viewing (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Avoid webcasting the pre-event empty stage whenever possible.